I really want to look at the literacy of humor. There are a few questions I want to answer in doing this.
1. Why do we laugh? (look at mechanisms in the brain maybe?)
2. Why is laughing so good for us? (use as a reference, maybe in intro or conclusion. May be interesting to throw in/mention)
3. Why do we consider some things funny and other things offensive?
4. When/why do people use humor? (coping mechanism, defense mechanism, just for kicks?)
5. Why we enjoy making others laugh.
I read Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants, a couple of years ago. In her book, she talked a lot about her journey into comedy and how she got to where she is today. She also talked a lot about why she wanted to be a comedian. I think it would be interesting to use her memoir, as well as others (maybe Joan Rivers), controversial stand up acts (seven deadly words, this years Oscars, ect.), and scientific articles to answer my questions.

What I want to know from you all though is if this is too many questions to answer? I feel like I could string them all together, maybe not in that specific order, but in a way that could answer the overall question: Why do we laugh? In looking at all the questions, I could see how each one could be its own paper, but I personally think linking them together could lead to a well-rounded conclusion.

After I wrote the portion above, I had a 15 minute conversation with my brother who is a huge fan of all this is funny. One recurring theme in our conversation was that things are the funniest when they are true. Here are my notes from the conversation. I don’t know what I will do with them quite yet, but I am looking forward to my research!

George Carlin
– “Jammin’ in New York” – after gulf war. Saying things that are disturbingly true. Hilarious. Takes point a and point b and connects them. You don’t know how he does it, but he does and it’s disturbing
Luis CK
– Contemporary comedic
– Juda→ deprecating himself as a father for a full hour
– Making a living off of self loathing
– “Meal doesn’t stop when I’m full it stops when I hate myself.”

Joan Rivers has mastered the insult

Father of modern day stand up is Richard Prier → race in the 70’s

Chris rock (OJ simpson, 1999 bigger and blacker—original HBO recording) Louis Black (the Carnegie hall performance) → take the reality of a situation and exaggerate it to the point that it is hilarious. Make it personal and look at absurdities in modern day.


3 Comments so far

  1.    Claire Bowen on April 4, 2013 7:59 pm

    All of the questions you pose at the start of this post are great ones, Miriam, but they are–perhaps alone, but certainly all together–too big for this essay. Why not follow up with one or two of the particular comics you mention here, and perhaps use your convo with your brother to help you think about the relationship of autobiography to comedy. I’d also just add that I think your initial interest in women comics and gender politics may get more belly laughs, so to speak, for you in this essay. That is, gender/comics/politics may be a richer germ to pursue.

  2.    blankc on April 7, 2013 7:41 pm

    Miriam, this is such an exciting topic!! I agree with professor Bowen about which questions to address in your article and also think it best that you stay with the gender/politics/ comics idea. You would write a great article with that particular focus and I think it would captivate your readers. I can’t wait to read all about it!

  3.    Taylor Kobran on April 16, 2013 9:48 pm

    I agree with all of the comments above. These are great questions to start out with and I can tell already how excited you are about this topic. Focusing on one particular comic might be useful, and will help keep the focus of your essay clear. I think you’ll find a ton of great information about Joan Rivers because she’s been in the business for a while, and has kind of revolutionized the role of the female comedian.

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